Thursday, July 31, 2008

2008 Giants Appear to be Heading Toward 100 L's

With all of the promise the new look Giants showed up until the All-Star break, after parting ways with Ray Durham for a minor league player similar to the one they got last year when they sent Matt Morris to Pittsburgh(Rajai Davis) the team has suddenly taken on the appearance of one that is lost at sea.

Batters are swinging at poorly located pitches and letting tee-ball located pitches go right into the center of the catcher's mitt for strikes. They are aggressive with they need to be more selective and are too selective on the first couple of pitches, when the pitcher has established that he's looking to jump ahead in the count. If you know the pitcher is going to be around the plate you should be ready to swing. If the pitcher hasn't established a strike zone and the umpire is calling his pitches accordingly, that's when you can be more selective.

John Bowker, let's call him Rusty since his facial countenance and body language never change. If he smacks one off the bricks or his glove becomes a reasonable facsimile for a brick, John Bowker never changes his expression.

For this 2008 season Bowker is the Giants' first-baseman. That may not be how the brass sees it for future seasons with the orange and black. Returning Rusty to the outfield might be the best thing for him and signing a free agent first-baseman known as much for pop in his bat as he is for a slick fielding ability. First-basemen must be good with the leather first, pop in the bat a very close second. (It's possible J.T. Snow established this precedent.)

Here's a rundown of some of the Giants regulars' averages, homers, runs batted in and bases on balls vs. strikeout ratio.

  1. Bowker .256 9-HR 39-RBI 15-BB 64-SO
  2. Jose Castillo .258 6-HR 34-RBI 25-BB 64-SO
  3. Fred Lewis .275 7-HR 31-RBI 40-BB 98-SO
  4. Rowand .287 9-HR 55-RBI 28-BB 84-SO
  5. Molina .279 8-HR 61-RBI 14-BB 28-SO
  6. Winn .280 5-HR 41-RBI 40-BB 57-SO
  7. Aurilia .279 8-HR 37-RBI 22-BB 41-SO
  8. Omar .182 0-HR 12-RBI 15-BB 22-SO

The strikeout to walk ratio is horrendous. This is where it starts for the fast fading Giants. Each batter has to take the responsibility to have the kind of approach that offers them the best chance to succeed. Lately they've been flailing away like Little Leaguers, hoping to make some sort of contact instead of having a good idea of how to put the bat on the ball.

(thanks to Baseball Reference for current stats)

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Baseball Mascots...Sort Of

In yesterdays Giants' 6-4 come from behind victory, it all came down to one crucial at-bat. An at-bat that preserved their streak of defeating the Nats every game this season (the season sweep was completed the following day on a brilliant 1-0 complete game hurled by Matt Cain). The batter, for the orange and black, was Rich Aurilia. He fought off some tough pitches and even had a couple of swing-through whiffs at the offerings of Washington National pitcher Luis Ayala. But the ghost of Rusty, as articulated by colorful commentator, Mike Krukow, may have had a hand in the key at-bat.

Aurilia hit a ball toward the right field corner, where in AT&T the field shrinks in that part of the park and all outfielder Austin Kearnes saw was a bench, an awning and gear adrift and did not have any room to reach out and try to catch the falling ball so it landed in foul territory for Aurilia to have another swing. On his next swing he connected solidly and drove the ball into the left-centerfield gap for a double and it drove in two runs. For good measure, Omar Vizquel rapped another double to score Aurilia and the Giants went on to win 6-4.

Getting back to Rusty, he was this mechanical figure who came out whenever a Giant hit a home run (and back then they had a guy named Barry who hit plenty of home runs). As for mascots, sort of, Rusty lasted one season. The same length of time the Crazy Crab lasted, one year, 1984.

The Giants' mascot now is a Seal. Lou Seal to be exact, which is shortened from his proper name of Luigi Francisco Seal. He doesn't stir it up the way the Crab did and personally I like Bob Fitzgerald's name of Melvin Otter better (after the Giant great, the first left-handed hitter in the National League to hit more than 500 homers).
Although I can see the association with a Seal, seeing as how the San Francisco Seals were a top Pacific Coast league team for many years (1903-1957).

Going around the league, here's a list of some mascots and their respective teams:
Toronto Blue Jays- Ace and his female counterpart Diamond.
Milwaukee Brewers- have Bernie Brewer. Bernie first came out in 1973 and lasted until 1984. But a fan favorite he returned, or better yet, came out of retirement in 1993.
Florida Marlins- Billy the Marlin. Derived from the fact that a marlin is a Billfish as well as a pun on the former player, then manager, Billy Martin.
Baltimore Orioles- the Bird
Pittsburgh Pirates- cartoon version of Captain Jolly Roger and the Pirate Parrot.
Colorado Rockies- Dinger. A purple triceratops dinosaur. Based on dinosaur bones found during the excavation of Coors Field.
St. Louis Cardinals- Fred Bird. (I suppose if you gave it a punk rock haircut, like that of the Charlie Sheen character in Major Leagues, you could call the mascot Free Bird.)
Cincinnati Reds- Gapper, the furry companion to Mr. Red
Seattle Mariners- Mariner Moose
New York Mets- Mr. Met. Like Mr. Redleg, he's a baseball-headed humanoid.
Philadelphia Phillies- Phillie Phanatic
San Diego Padres- The Swinging Friar. But you can never forget the character to put mascots on the map and that was the San Diego Chicken.
Oakland Athletics- mascot's name is Stomper. An elephant adorned with an Athletics uniform. The inception of an elephant is said to have come from a quote by the former New York Giants' manager, John McGraw, who commented how Benjamin Shibe (original A's owner in Philadelphia) 'had bought himself a white elephant.'
Isn't it ironic how the definition of a white elephant is: a supposedly valuable possession whose cost exceeds its usefulness. You most certainly could say this about several ballplayers then and now.
But because of the quote, Connie Mack selected the white elephant as the team symbol and mascot.
Stomper actually replaced Charlie-O the Mule. Charlie-O was from 1963-1976. When the A's moved to Kansas City, Missouri, the official state animal was the mule. There were questions whether Charles O. Finley would be loyal to Missouri so he embraced the mule and removed the elephant from the A's logo and changed the A's colors from blue, red and white to green, gold and white.

(thanks to Wikipedia for mascot information)

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tiger Closer Agrees With My Umpires/Writers Don't Deserve Respect... Take Away the Umpires, Please!

Detroit Tiger closer, Todd Jones, who has a column in the Sporting News called Baseball Insider, The Closer, agrees with my thoughts entitled "Umpires and Writers Dont' Deserve the Respect they Get."

In the June 30, 2008 issue of the Sporting News, Jones has a few things to say about one writer in particular (SF Chronicle's Henry Schulman) in his piece The Write Stuff Can Sometimes Be All Wrong.

'The part of the game story written by Henry Schulman that caught our attention: "Adding to the wickedness was the fact that (Jonathan) Sanchez was beaten not by one of Detroit's high-salaried thumpers, but a .219-hitting scrub named Ryan Raburn." We (the Tigers) all kind of lost it when we read that Schulman had just called one of our teammates a scrub!'

Todd goes onto say: I can't think of anybody who has played in the major leagues who deserves to be called a scrub-not even Bob Uecker. He went on to write that Raburn hit his home run three-quarters of the way up the left field bleachers, which measures something like 425 feet.

Our skipper, Jim Leyland, was livid. We all were. Ryan just laughed it off- what else could he do? He'd just been humiliated by a guy he'd never met. He was embarrassed by a guy who has probably never played one thing in his life that was hard, or done something at which he wasn't good. Schulman, apparently, has always been the best at everything he has tried.

The comment angers me (Todd Jones) because of how tough this game is to play.

The truth is, we are all reminded every day of what we can't do. We can't run fast enough, throw hard enough, hit enough homers or do this or that. We get it. We have limitations, but we want to improve.

I've got thick skin-reporters don't bother me, for the most part. But a personal attack on a guy's ability or perceived place in this game is ENOUGH! This article is a shout to all players who have been singled out for what we cannot do. At least we're on the field.

...I'd much rather be a scrub than a guy who sits on the sideline and watches what happens, then writes about it.

Hey, Henry, how about next time you just report on the game. Call it as you see it and show the players on the field some respect. Use backup or utility player instead of scrub.

As for the umpires, I got to thinking about a couple of umpires in the San Francisco Saturday Softball League. Their names are Merle and Curtis.

Both approach their respective jobs as umpire seriously although Curtis doesn't do nearly the jabber-jawing that Merle does. In fact, Merle's fun-loving approach is oft-times mistaken for someone who is having the best ole time to be had at the yard when he just may be covering up the fact that he doesn't approve of the way a player is playing the game and he has said as much under his breath while I was catching.

A guy will be Cadillacing or Escalading it around the bases and then when that same guy takes the field he continues Cadillacing or Escalading after fly balls. Merle might mention how that isn't the way to play the game. That he hopes someone isn't on the bench while that guy is out in the field. And then in a half-hearted tone of voice, that might include a wink, he says, "You know I could squeeze the strike zone on that guy but I won't stoop to his level... But I could."

Curtis just calls 'em as he sees 'em and if you don't like it you'll be riding pine with a whiff on the records if you don't make adjustments. Curtis sees your body language and hears you whine and he'll remark too how that guy doesn't belong but because he isn't clowning the players (like Merle has a tendency to do) his all-business approach make his actions much more meaningful. He might be doing the "But I could.." but you just don't suspect such a thing.

I probably wouldn't suspect such a thing from Merle either until I heard him throw that out there, that in any circumstance You know I could and I just can't help but think that the silver fox just might have it in him. And quite frankly, if you do something to agitate the umpire you deserve what you get. As long as the ump isn't looking for trouble and these two old-timers (Curtis and Merle) most certainly aren't there looking for trouble. They are there to umpire a game they enjoy. They've got better things to do at a ballgame than to open the rabbit ears and be an over-officious jerk.

From my vantage point, I most certainly cannot say the same about the major league umpires.
Game in and game out their body language and bad attitudes lean toward the idea that they're looking to gain revenge on some punk ballplayer who tried to show them up. How dare you do to an umpire what he did to you! (Even if the ump may have did their best Leslie Nielsen impression on a called third strike or tag play that involved that same player.)

You see, in baseball, where the umpires are concerned there is a definite double standard. It's okay for the umpires to show you up and they'll go out of their way to do it AND they don't have a period where they have to go through a rookie initiation/hazing like the major leaguers do, especially on the receiving end of some questionable calls. (That part I don't get and never will, because I have yet to meet anyone who purchases a ticket to see those bums in blue.)

Judging by their bad body language, I am saying, that these bloated goats in blue tend to hold grudges, and don't for a moment think they forgive and forget. If you gave them a ration of dung one night and are involved in a tag play the following night you know I could comes to mind. I don't doubt it for one second. Only because the umps I spoke of (Curtis and Merle) aren't looking to 86 someone the way these major league bloated-goats-in-blue are and loving it.

Heck, if you aren't held accountable for anything you might have a tendency to stretch the rules a wee bit, eh? And really, what are they getting paid good money for and why are they treated like kings when the majority of 'em can't make a call to save their life. They are horrible on tag plays, have zero consistency when it's their turn to call balls and strikes and aren't paying attention to detail, which is what umpiring is essentially.

(In the Brewers at Giants game on July 20th, a ground ball was hit to the third baseman for the Brewers-Russell Branyan- and he skipped-to-my-lou over the bag but the ump, picking his ass at third just gave it to him. He clearly skipped (in baseball they refer to it as a crow hop) over the bag but the ump called the baserunner on second base out regardless of that fact. The umpire seemed a bit caught off guard when Giants' third-base coach Tim Flannery informed him that it's only a force if the fielder touches the bag. But as I say, he was picking his ass and missed the play due to prior obligations.

If the instant replay goes into effect, why not make it for every call? Let's use modern technologoy to turn baseball into the Jetsons!! Why not, the human element of the umpire has quite frankly become the inhumane act of unaccountable jerks. (Apologies to the maybe one guy per crew who asks for help and or admits he blew the call. I'm sorry you will have to do something else to make a living. Your cohorts spoiled a good thing.) Eliminate these guys from the game and baseball will be better for it. I can only wonder had they done this sooner, how many home runs hitters would not have had taken from them or extra pitches a pitcher would have to had thrown because a K-Zone type of contraption could provide for a more accurate and consistent strike zone than those unaccountable expletives currently assigned the arduous task of calling balls and strikes as described in the rulebook definitions.

In the words of Henny Youngman, sort of, Take Away the Umpires, Please!!!!!!!!!

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Giant Perhaps Forgotten

The Giants are currently showing the top 10 games (as voted by the fans) on Comcast, the cable network responsible for showing more San Francisco Giants games than anyone else.

Most recently, Game #8, has aired (these games are being shown in reverse order) and its of the 1987 Giants clinching the pennant at Jack Murphy Stadium against the Padres.

In this film are a lot of familiar faces of yesteryear, one of them being Bruce Bochy. In this particular game Bochy was inserted as a pinch-hitter but his futile attempt at reaching base was thwarted by the crafty left-hander, Dave Dravecky, who made Bochy appear feeble at best. And this reminds me that Bruce Bochy, as a manager, has been serviceable. No more, no less. He had more than a modicum of success with the San Diego Padres, which is more than I can say for his job with the Giants, so far.

Because I was on the outside looking in I thought the Giants hiring Bruce Bochy was a good move. But as the Giants' skipper he has not shown the ability of timing. This is one trait all successful managers must have and as long as he stumbles in his decision-making process, much of it having to do with timing, at least one embittered and sometimes inebriated fan will continue to mispronounce his name as Botchy. And unfortunately, for Senor Bruce, there is some accuracy to these misspoken outbursts.

I came across a familiar name as someone Baltimore Oriole closer, George Sherrill, credits for helping him catch some scouts' eyes when he was toiling around in the minor leagues. When Sherrill was playing for the Winnipeg Goldeyes in 2003, the manager was Hal Lanier. The same Lanier who wore #22 before Jack Clark and then Will the Thrill Clark, after him. He played second-base then shortstop for the San Francisco Giants from 1965 thru 1971, before handing the job of shortstop over to Chris Speier.

Lanier has been doing the managerial thing for a while. And since he has some history with the Giants I wanted to re-introduce him to fans of the orange and black. He had the werewithall to tell George Sherrill that he needed to lose some El Bees (lbs.), preferably 25, and in doing so Sherrill picked up a couple of miles per hour to his fastball. With an already deceptive throwing style that extra oomph helped Sherrill lead the Northern League in earned run average (ERA) and got him noticed by some scouts.

It appears to me that Lanier can see beyond the initial impression. And that's better than Bochy who doesn't seem to know when to pull a struggling hurler or when to just leave him in there to work out of the mess. I don't blame Bochy, pitching coaches Dave Righetti or Mark Gardner for the abundance of no balls and two strikes hits allowed. Although the idea of fining the bonehead (and his batterymate) might make some of those guys who have difficulty reaching for their wallets (due to alligator arms) think twice about getting too much of the strike zone with a pitch while they are ahead in the count.

Hal Lanier, a name to keep in mind when the time comes to replace Bruce Bochy.

(Inspired by article from ESPN magazine, dated May 19, 2008.)

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Umpires and Writers Don't Deserve the Respect They Get

In last night's baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets, at Shea Stadium, there was an incident in the top half of the first inning that really got me to wondering. Why are things the way they are? Did we, the fans, let this happen?

John Bowker, a rookie with the Giants, leaned back from an inside pitch and somehow the umpire read it as the batter using this maneuver to get the call so the ump harrumphed the word "strike." (There can be no other explanation for why the guy-behind the catcher- rang up Rookie Bowker.)

How does this work, when you are a rookie in the Big Leagues, the umpires put you through some sort of fraternity initiation process of "growing pains." How about the umpires going through the same thing? I just don't see any sort of rites of passage type thing happening to these bloated goats of baseball.

The same goes for the writers. They write things as if they themselves experienced such a thing. Like the word routine. What is routine about any grounder, pop up or fly ball? As long as there are elements of wind, sun, inadequate groundskeeping and (for the sake of argument) throw in the possibility of some heckler harrumphing words from the book of slang, that play will not be lounge-chair, sipping-your-favorite-libation, easy. Anyone who has played and not watched the game knows, routine is non-existent.

It's as if the scribes, in their over-exaggeration of everything had to develop catchall words and or phrases to describe what was happening. But in their delusional discovery of such syllabic deception they forgot to remember that it's the "routine" play that separates baseball from other sports. It's majesty and it's seemingly automatic nature is what makes the play so good in the first place.

I don't understand why the umpires have such autonomy. That they are not held accountable allows for their freelance in how the interpret the rules. Same goes for the hacks (writers) who just so happen to have the vote that gets those players who are extraordinaire into the hallowed halls of their individual sport's fame for lifelong worship. Entrance into the hall of fame should be based on unbiased votes of former players, coaches and announcers. In other words, All of those folks the league fines everytime they say the slightest thing against the officials and or writers.

If you can assess a fine on these players, coaches, managers and announcers for merely voicing their opinion then it should be these people who you fine who have the ability to elect a player into the Hall of Fame and nobody else. When the umpires get fined or the writers get penalized accordingly (similar to the way they deem necessary for the player, coach, manager and or announcer) then and only then should they be considered qualified to vote for someone's entry into their hall of fame.

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hide in the Bush

What is it about baseball that makes the late-inning fielding replacement almost always see the next ball hit? And when a player flubs, bobbles, muffs, kicks or boots a ball, he/she gives off this bad body language vibe, but what they really wish was they could be like a chameleon, in hopes the ball has no way of locating them and yet the ball finds them over and over again?

Yesterday's Fourth of July game at AT&T between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the (home team)San Francisco Giants had an incident where the Giants' left-fielder, Fred Lewis, was having a game in the field he'd just as soon forget. On one play his tippy-toe dance -as teammate Aaron Rowland approached him- following the flight of the ball, lead to the ball bouncing from Lewises glove to Rowand's for an out! On a couple of other occasions the end results were not as fortuitous.

I looked up baseball jargon, in Wikipedia, to see if there were a term for the aformentioned behavior (a ball finding you or hoping the ball wouldn't find you)and came up with a couple you could borrow from but they really didn't fit the description.

Take the field: when the defensive players go to their positions at the beginning of an inning the defense takes the field. No mention is made of hiding in the bush!

Ugly finder: a foul ball hit into a dugout, presumably destined to find "someone" who is ugly or to render him that way if he fails to dodge the ball. (By and large, this one could best describe the fielder who doesn't want to be in the field. He's hoping to dodge the ball, that much is a bullseye!)

(thanks to Wikipedia for baseball jargons)

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Not So Special

How good was Matt Cain last night versus the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park? Not good enough to get the chance at a complete game shutout.

The line on Matt Cain was 8-innings pitched, 3-bases on balls, 2-hits, 0-runs, 10-strikeouts on 113 pitches.
For Brian Don'tWorry Baby Wilson, 1-inning pitched, 3-hits, 1-run, 1-K, on 25 pitches.

Why couldn't Matt Cain finish the game? He's a big guy (listed at 6'3" and 231 pounds) what are the coaches and or powers that be afraid of?

Remember Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn? They were both 6 feet tall and about 175 pounds. These guys generally finished what they started. (Spahn, winner of 363 games, completed 382 of the 665 games he started. Juan, the Dominican Dandy, winner of 243 games, completed 244 of the 457 games he started.) Probably because they wanted the ball and didn't trust anyone else to do their work for them.

I understand the game has strategies where there are situations when the manager uses a reliever based on the side-of-the-plate the batter stands and the same for pinch-hitters, depending on the arm of the pitcher throwing the ball.

But to bring in a lefty because the batter is a lefty or vice versa or to bring in a reliever to get just one out because the starter experienced a little turbulence is pushing the panic button.

Last night, Matt Cain dominated the 8th inning.

When it was announced that Brian Wilson had come into relieve Matt Cain, I bet the whole Cub team collectively sighed and thanked the baseball gods because it meant they still had 3 outs.
And for a moment, Brian "Don't Worry Baby" Wilson was once again the sarcastic reference to the lead Beach Boy-Wouldn't It Be Nice (as in Wouldn't It Be Nice if he got the opponents out 1-2-3.)

Why not go with the hot hand? Why take a chance on disrupting the rhythm of the game with someone fresh out of the bullpen?

And please don't tell me you have a pitch count to protect the pitcher from overuse. You signed the guy in hopes of winning games not eating innings. All pitchers want to win games. Those who are assigned the task of saving games understand that is why they are there but they know better than anyone that being brought into a game just to face one batter can disrupt the flow of the game and that is when bad things can happen.

The only reason you would want to disrupt the flow of the game is if your team was on the losing end. If the game is tied a manager may consider the possibilities of using someone in a situation that may get the best results for that player because that player thrives in those sort of magnified moments and this is perfectly acceptable. It's what managers should be doing, and that is working on ways that best put the team in position to win the game.

I'm not so sure pulling a starter, who has dominated or been in control of the game, for the set-up man or closer just because that's the point of the game that has been reached, according to the way the game is played nowadays-with its specialized usage of players- is the best move. Because, in being a fan, I've been on the other side of the Not So Special pitching change. That's when the Jumbo Tron flashes the animated BIG hippopotamus sigh of relief on the big screen, because we all knew the only chance our team had to win was to get that guy off the mound!

The move is not so special when the lead changes hands and your team is now the team trailing, with three outs to go, if you're lucky. Sometimes it's walk off , gut-wrenching ugly.

Kevin Marquez